a Description of Fish I Have Seen
Submitted by Kite Line
I can't believe it's really you. It has to be.
It has to be.
I am writing to you because you exist. If you did not exist I would not be writing to you, and I do not wish to live in a reality where that is the case.
I don't know where you've been, but I'm looking at you right now from across the shore. Even from so far away, I can still make out all of your features. You are just as I remember you. You haven't aged a day!
You have no idea how badly I want to swim out to meet you. I would give anything to hold you in my arms again. But unfortunately my boat has long since sunk, taken by something in the sea, and there is no way I would be able to swim that far to be with you. I am isolated here, trapped in the lighthouse on our tiny island.
We will have to communicate in writing for now. The sea may not be who she used to be, but I trust her to guide these bottled letters to you. Maybe the ol' girl still has it in her infinite heart to steer two wayward souls together again. If you are reading this letter, then thank her for me, will you?
You still love fish, right? Thing is, with all of the big changes recently, I've been seeing some real interesting new fish show up that I've never seen before. Some of them I can't make heads or tails of. Maybe you've seen them too? I figure that with each letter I send to you, I could tell you a little about some of the new fish that I've seen or interacted with. Hopefully you'll be familiar with some of them and be able to tell me more about them. At the very least it will give us something to talk about with each other, or anyone for that matter.
I will bottle this letter and cast it out to sea. I hope it reaches you... I'm looking at you right now, actually. Way over there on that distant sandbar that... That I've never noticed before. You're looking right at me but you don't seem to notice me. I do hope you've been well. I have so many questions for you.
- your dear friend
The oarfish in this region have grown to immense lengths, sometimes stretching into the depths for as far as the eye can see. It's not hard to see why the fishermen of old regarded them as sea serpents.
They ascend from the ocean floor vertically, and hang in that position, with their almost hand-like faces pointed upwards towards the surface of the water as if watching the sky.
These oarfish are bioluminescent, and glow a very deep shade of crimson. When they gather into groups, they look like a series of immense red arms emerging from the dark ocean floor. Occasionally they will flex their bodies in unison, creating a sharp piercing sound almost like a sudden thunderclap.
In the blackness of the permanent night, they are both haunting and beautiful.
I hope my first letter reached you safely, otherwise this letter will seem rather strange. If so, I apologize. You haven't written back yet, but I still see you there.
How are you surviving out there? There doesn't seem to be any source of food or filtered drinking water. No shelter. Nothing at all but you and the sand. Even I have trouble finding edible food, as it's near impossible to find recognizably edible or normal fish anymore. And I've found these pale little fish... They taste real weird and have some really messed up side effects. If I can figure out a way to come rescue you and bring you back, I will.
Please take care of yourself.
- your dear friend
Things were simpler back then.
The Sun still shone in the sky.
Your face still shone like the Sun.
The winds breathed.
The waves lived.
We breathed with the wind.
We lived with the waves.
We danced in the sunlight.
We rested in the moonlight.
We were so carefree.
On the night we confessed, we planted an apple tree.
Years passed. Night fell. Clear skies.
The apple tree glowed in the Moon's light.
A single apple was illuminated like a prism.
It was perfect. Ripe. Fresh. Pure.
You plucked the apple from the tree and took a bite.
There was a worm inside of it.
Pale circular fish about the size of an outstretched palm. Their eyes are large and take up both sides of their bodies. They are normally docile and lethargic and don't seem to mind being picked up or handled, despite being 90% eyeball. I named them after how well they reflect the light of the moon in their eyes, as well as for how limp they are when handled.
Every specimen I have caught appears to have a scar running along the rear end of its body, as if a piece was cut off of it. Or maybe it was once attached to something larger in an earlier part of its life cycle?
When this fish sees its own reflection in the water, it trembles slightly.
Under no circumstances should you show this fish its reflection under the light of the full Moon.
In other news, I saw something strange outside my bedroom window the other night. It was a fishing boat with a small group of people on it, slowly and aimlessly drifting along in the sea nearby the island. This is the first boat I've seen in months. I didn't even know anyone was left up here.
Excited, I ran outside to greet them and call them over, but they didn't appear to hear my shouting despite how close they were.
The people aboard all looked deathly thin, and their clothes were tattered and disheveled, like they had been lost at sea for who knows how long. They were all standing perfectly still in the boat as they drifted along, looking up at the Moon with wide outstretched arms and peaceful smiles on their faces. They were like statues.
No matter how much of a scene I made, I could not get their attention, and they eventually floated away and out of sight beyond the horizon.
The reason I'm bringing this up is because I found their dead bodies washed ashore on the island tonight. Their faces were ripped clean off and the insides of their heads had been scooped clean, brains and all.
I buried them not too far from the lighthouse, whoever they were. I'm not quite sure what to think of the whole event, but I suppose it's no stranger than anything else that has happened up to this point.
You were watching me as I finished patting down the soil on their graves, and I waved to you. But even you are like a statue sometimes, with how little you seem to move over there. You simply continued to stare.
Please write back soon.
- your dear friend
This school of melodic fish never fails to wake me up at night with the strange sounds they make. I can see them well from my bedroom window, and the height gives me a great vantage point to see just how large of a school they gather.
They travel in a huge snake-like school that extends across the surface of the ocean. They are an odd-looking fish. I've never seen one up close, as they always travel in a tightly-packed school, but they seem to bear a similarity to a type of now-extinct koi who's faces resembled that of a human's.
Oddly, they all seem to swim vertically, gathering at the surface of the water, sticking their heads above the surface to “sing” together. I've never been able to see their bodies; only their heads. They make these really beautiful sounds, like a chorus of people singing hymnals. They are loud enough with their singing that it wakes me up at night, but beautiful enough that it is easy for me to relax and drift back to sleep.
It's quite a sight, really. A huge row of faces flowing and curving along the surface of the ocean.
I have often rushed outside during their songs to see if you are there watching too, but you seem to disappear at night. Where you go, I am not sure, as there doesn't seem to be anywhere for you to go on that sandbar. How have you survived this long? Where did you go when you disappeared? I have so many questions for you, and I miss you dearly.
If I had the strength to swim out there to rescue you, I would. I want you to come home.
Sometimes I get frustrated that you haven't written back yet, but then I remember that you probably aren't receiving these letters anyway, and even if you were, you have nothing to write with or on.
I shouldn't give up hope.
I refuse to believe that isn't you out there. That you're simply a hallucination or a figment of my lonely imagination.
But still, none of this makes any sense...
I need to sleep.
- your dear friend
It was late at night.
You couldn't sleep.
You woke me and took me outside.
The night was still.
The air was soft.
The sky was clear.
The world asleep.
You grabbed my hand.
We ran into the forest behind the lighthouse.
We ran and ran.
Until we reached the clearing in the middle of the forest.
You collapsed on your back on the soft grass.
I followed suit.
We stared at the clear sky.
At the stars.
Still holding hands.
As the night progressed, the Moon slowly floated over the clearing.
You told me how romantics and dreamers would see what their hearts desired most when they looked at the Moon.
So we looked.
You never told me what you saw.
What you desired most.
But I could feel the way it warmed you.
And I was warmed through you.
But when I looked up at the Moon on that night.
I could see only you.
My dear friend.
My lighthouse keeper.
I went scuba diving today for the first time in quite a while. The area of the ocean that surrounds the island... I've nicknamed it “the zone of avoidance” because of how empty of life it is. This place was once teeming with life before the world changed, but now it's just... Empty. A huge, totally silent void. It's almost like a massive underwater desert; nothing but rolling hills of sand pocketed by the ocassional crater that go at least half a mile deep, if not longer.
There isn't any sunlight anymore, so exploring the ocean requires a really powerful light. The old lighthouse isn't seeing much use anymore, so I was able to disassemble the light and use it as a general purpose spotlight; aiming it into whatever part of the ocean I wanted to explore next... Even though they're all basically the same now.
As I was swimming out closer to the region with the craters, there was something different this time. I could sense a presence, a shape or mass in the water in the area ahead. As I drew nearer, I could sense many of them. I'm not sure how to describe the feeling, but it's almost as if I could feel a displacement in the water created by something new that was taking up space. Curious, I pressed forward.
In the distance, at the very edge of my vision, a series of shapes slowly materialized in the void, becoming clearer as I drew closer.
In the middle of each of the craters was a tall, white, monolithic structure stretching almost to the surface of the ocean. A series of towers dotting the barren landscape of the void. They were like stone structures, but something about them felt alive.
Swimming closer to one of them, I realized that they were composed entirely of hundreds, if not thousands of white spheres about the size of a basketball. Almost like large pearls. They felt like glass and were extremely cold to the touch.
At the top of each of the towers was a large circular gap, just large enough for a person to swim through. However, this gap is where the structure's temperature was at its coldest. Sticking my arm into the gap caused it to go completely numb from the cold... Dangerous for swimming, obviously. I briefly entertained the notion of swimming through the hole, but knew that doing so would probably lead to my unconsciousness shortly followed by drowning.
As I continued to explore this sea of megaliths, there was movement in one of the spheres. I was able to remove this sphere from the tower without great effort, and the wriggling of the object made me realize that what I was holding onto was not a pearl or a stone of any kind... It was an egg.
All of those towers, all of those spheres. They were egg clusters. Something enormously large must have laid these since the last time I was out there. But something so gargantuan couldn't possibly have eluded my attention for that long...
I no longer felt safe.
Clutching the cold, small object, I was luckily able to swim back to the island without incident. If this truly was an egg, then maybe it could be edible. Another source of food is always welcome.
Upon reaching the shore, I grabbed a nearby rock and smashed open the egg to see what was inside. I wasn't prepared for what I saw.
From within the sphere fell a fetus the likes of which I have never seen before. It was primarily fishlike, but certain aspects of it greatly resembled a human embryo.
Except its skin was translucent and pale white.
And its spine was longer and more flexible than it should have been.
And it had another pair of arms and hands instead of legs.
And it didn't have a face.
The small, still living fetus turned its vacant head to “look” at me, and I suddenly recalled all of those people on that boat... Standing there, arms outstretched, gazing up at the Moon with bliss on their faces...
...And emptiness in the hollowed out skulls of their corpses...
I threw the damned thing back into the ocean.
Admittedly, this isn't a fish that actually exists, but it's one that has haunted my dreams ever since I explored those towers, and I feel that it's important enough for you to know about.
In my dreams, I am floating in the middle of the zone of avoidance. I cannot move my body, and float aimlessly at the whim of the silent ocean, surrounded on all sides by the oppressive gaze of the pale white egg towers.
The stillness of the waters is suddenly disturbed by intense movement, and in the corner of my peripheral vision, it appears.
Swimming around the towers at the very edge of my vision, barely visible, is a massive infinitely long wormlike creature composed entirely of faces. Human faces. The water is moved and disturbed not only because of the movement of this massive being, but also because of the horrible cacophony of screams emitted by the faces. Thousands, millions, infinite faces locked in a state of constant drowning.
But something about the screams... And this is going to sound horrible of me... Something about the screaming is beautiful, like a song. A beautiful, horrible song that makes you cry with joy and weep in fear. The vibration consumes me and shakes me, devouring, eternal.
But the worst part of all of this, is that right before I wake up, the worm's head swims directly at me. Barreling at my helpless floating body at a terrifying speed.
And the head that I am confronted with, the face that devours me...
...Sometimes when I look at you out there on that sandbar, something about your presence feels primally wrong. It's like there's a massive shape to your form that my mind is unable to perceive. Something beyond my vision's capability. The space around you seems to warp when I try to understand what it is.
What you are.
Stop staring at me.
You're never going to write back.
It was very late at night.
You still weren't asleep.
I walked down the spiral staircase of the lighthouse to the lit basement below.
You were in the lab, fussing over researching eight new species of fish you had discovered.
Your pride and joy. You were the first! The fruit of your latest dive, and you found them all in the same day. The luck!
Though you mostly enjoyed being the one to name them (as charmingly uncreative as your names were).
You had them all in eight separate aquariums.
Piles of notes, sketches, and observations stacked in front of each tank.
The fish were all so wildly different from each other.
There was something curious about them.
Something vague, that you simply couldn't pinpoint.
It was driving you crazy. You were losing sleep over it.
The next day, you had to leave for a month to visit your family on the mainland. Oh how it agonized you to leave your new discovery behind.
I had stayed behind to look after the lighthouse and tend to the fish.
I still remember the look on your face when you returned a month later to discover eight identical fish in each of the tanks.
Despite their wildly different appearances, they were all the same kind of fish. Each one a different stage in the life cycle of a single species.
All different aspects of the same animal.
Like the phases of the Moon.
When people used to look at the Moon, they would send along with their gaze all of their hopes and dreams, their wishes and aspirations. Separated lovers, no matter how far apart, could be together in heart and spirit as long as they gazed at the Moon together. It connected people, across cultures and lifestyles, no matter how different. We all looked at the Moon with the same love and wistful hopefulness. They would see in the Moon what they wanted to see.
But along with the positive, people also unknowingly sent the negative to the Moon as well. Their fears, their flaws, their prejudices, their hate... All of the bad that the good requires to spring from. All forms of happiness have an underlying bed of sadness that it feeds on. Situations and feelings that people want to escape from. The tunnel is far larger than the light at the end of it, after all.
Maybe the Moon was full. Full to bursting with everything that we had sent to it throughout human history.
Maybe the Moon had grown to love us, and wanted to give something back to us. But the Moon wasn't us. It couldn't truly understand us. It was confused by the negative things we unknowingly sent to it, and that's why what happened, happened.
Or maybe I'm simply being too romantic and things aren't as black and white as I am making them out to be. Maybe this is just my desperate attempt to rationalize the irrational. An attempt to make sense of an event that was far beyond human understanding. More than likely this was simply an event that was set in motion many eons ago, long before humans even existed, and there was nothing we could do to predict or stop it. But it really helps the mind to cope when you try to anthropomorphise these things.
Because I was watching the night the Moon cracked open like an egg and the white, wormlike miscarriage of our hopes and fears poured out of its shattered womb and into the ocean below. Poisoning the sky, flooding the world with a dark sea, even extending its reach to the Sun... And snuffing it out.
You were watching with me. It was the last time we were together. Without breaking your gaze from the Moon, you stood up, walked into the ocean, and disappeared. You walked right in like you thought you could breathe it.
What did you see? What did you see in the Moon that compelled you so?
And now, five years later, here you are. On a sandbar that never existed. Just standing there, staring at me.
That's all you ever do now.
You stand there.
And you stare at me.
And your pale face glows softly with a warm, cold light.
I know you aren't the person I think you are. Who I wish you were. Who I want you to be. If things were different I would probably be able to see you for what you really are.
But I do not care anymore. I have nothing left. There is nothing left.
I want to be with you again. Even if it isn't really you.
I am writing to you because you exist. If you did not exist I would not be writing to you, and I do not wish to live in a reality where that is the case.
When distant lovers used to look at the Moon, they would be connected no matter how far apart they were.
I am going to climb to the top of the lighthouse and gaze at the Moon. Wherever you are, wherever you really are, you will feel my gaze reflected by its cold light.
I know you will come for me.
And we will look together.
The lighthouse keeper disappeared today. I watched the whole thing from my boat. Still unsure of what to make of the whole thing. Not sure if he's dead, but he's definitely gone.
He was always a weird guy. Kept to himself. Loved fish. Poor social skills. Lonely. Probably sexually frustrated. But he was still damn good at his job, and it's weird to think that he's actually gone. However, I suppose his area didn't really need a lighthouse keeper anymore anyway, considering that everybody there has been long dead. What few people are left there usually don't last very long. I think the poor guy was the last person left there.
Over the past few days I kept finding bottled messages floating in my patrol area. They were all written by him. He was seemingly obsessed with a woman that only he could see, who was trapped on a sandbar not far from his island. Thing is, there aren't any sandbars in his area, nor any solid ground for a thousand miles. His area was submerged almost entirely back when the Moon broke open. He's lucky his lighthouse was located at such a high altitude.
These letters were unusual even for him. I sensed something was wrong, so I decided to pay him a visit to see what was going on.
It took me a few days of open sea travel. I arrived at night, not that time of day matters anymore. When my patrol boat neared the island and the lighthouse was in view, something in my head told me to slow down and keep my distance. There was something wrong up ahead. Something going on that I wasn't supposed to see.
And I saw it all.
Washed up lifelessly on the shore... It was a massive abomination. A colossal pale worm that glowed with a cold light. Its body was covered in countless... Human arms... And hands... That moved around like diseased cilia. They were a deep crimson red, and had an elastic, stretchy quality to them. There was a knobby head-like structure at the front of it, but it didn't appear to have facial features of any kind. Its long thick body trailed off from the beach and into the ocean, and seemed to continue infinitely into the pitch black depths below.
From my distant vantage point, I watched as its limp body began to stir. With a nauseating sequence of movements, the creature's many arms flailed and struggled to lift its body off the sand like dozens of legs, straining under the intense weight of the main body. The animal began crawling further onto the shore with a distinct sense of purpose. It's featureless head “sniffing” the air around it.
As the worm lumbered towards the lighthouse and pulled more of itself out of the ocean, its tail section, previously submerged under the depths, started to become visible.
I'm not quite sure how to say this, but its tail was... Its tail was covered in human faces. Living human faces. Each one gasped for air as it was brought above the surface of the water. Their eyes would dart around, alarmed, and their mouths would scream and gasp, but none of them could make any sound. And its tail kept going and going... There was seemingly no end to it. No matter how far the creature went on the island, its tail continued into the black sea. An endless column of silently screaming faces locked in fear and agony.
It wrapped its hundreds of arms around the breadth of the lighthouse, and with large, laborious movements, it began pulling its massive frame up the shaft of the lighthouse. At the very top of the lighthouse was the keeper, the poor bastard. He was staring up at the Moon with his arms outstretched and a stupid smile on his face. He was like a statue.
I... I couldn't do anything about it, call me a coward but I couldn't dare draw near. What could I do anyway? I'm just a bleedin' patroller...
When the creature reached the top, it fixed itself to the lighthouse like a cicada, and the arms on the creature's back... They began to grow like red trees, spreading and branching out like wings, eventually budding and growing little eyes or fish or something that broke off and flopped around on the ground below. Some of them making it into the ocean.
As I continued to watch, something in my head suddenly flipped on like a light switch, something primal, instinctive... I subconsciously looked up at the Moon and I-
I looked back, and the keeper was gone. The creature had dismounted from the lighthouse and was sitting squat on the ground, holding it's body poised like an attentive salamander.
Staring directly at me.
Staring with... Its... Uh... Its featureless head...
I'm not sure how long this went on for. There were... Things going on at this point that made me lose track of how much time passed.
Eventually, in a flurry of motion, the creature flailed and sprinted back into the sea, disappearing from sight and taking all of its screaming faces with it.
I waited in the boat for a very long while until I was sure that the coast was clear, doing my best to take in everything that just happened, before docking my boat at the lighthouse. Judging by the keeper's letters along with everything that I personally witnessed, I think it would be best if I stayed here for a while to see what happens next.
These oceans aren't safe anymore.
This is Full Moon Phase Patrol Unit 8 signing off.
You have to help me. Please. I'm scared to death. Do not let my C.O. know this, but I lied. Fuck me, I lied. I could hear them as soon as I looked up at the Moon. They were singing. All of them were screaming- I mean singing. It was the most beautiful song I have ever heard. It was so beautiful that I could not keep myself from crying, and it was the worst sound I have ever heard in my life.
And that creature. When it turned to look at me... I lied during that part too.
It had his face.
I probably don't have much time left.
It's amusing how we used to think the Mariana Trench was the deepest part of the ocean. But I know that's wrong. As soon as I looked at that face, I knew we were wrong. There's some place even deeper than that...
...And it's wherever the Moon's reflection went when it disappeared from the surface of the ocean, forever...